Friday, January 30, 2015

cozy stripes

sweater, Gap Outlet
Calvin Klein straight leg jeans, Ross

       I indulged myself in this pretty, lightweight sweater when I went outlet shopping over winter break. I couldn't resist the cheerful stripes in warm colors. 
       Have you ever read a book that made you rethink long-held assumptions? Over my winter break I read "The Smartest Kids in the World" by Amanda Ripley. The book looks at the educational systems of Finland, Poland, and South Korea. Several things really stood out.
           First, in some countries, only the top students are accepted into teacher training programs, where they undergo rigorous instruction. The job of educator is prestigious and coveted.
          Second, parents' view of and participation in education varies widely. Ripley said something like Asian parents see themselves as coaches, while Western parents see themselves as cheerleaders. "Coach" parents tend to make education an explicit part of home life, such as having their child do a workbook page for 30 minutes a day. Two of my students are of Korean ancestry, and I know that their mothers provide ample educational opportunities at home, ranging from subscriptions to online math education programs to workbooks.
       Third, in other countries, instructional time is preserved as ... well, instructional time. High school teachers aren't coaches; parents are the ones who run sports after school. One of the things that surprised me about my current school when I first arrived was how participation in service clubs cuts into students' instructional time.
      Fourth, some teachers don't want to know too much about their students' home lives and personal challenges. Why? A teacher explained that knowing too much about students' struggles may lead her to lower her expectations of what these students can achieve. This was an eye-opening statement to read. While I still believe it is useful for me to have information about students' life outside of school, I realize that I must not let this information dilute my expectations.  
    I don't usually read much nonfiction, preferring fluffy escapist novels during the school year, but this was a worthwhile choice for winter break.

    What's the last book you read that really made an impression on you?

December budget

green top and Ann Taylor blue top, Goodwill, $9.98

sterling silver and moonstone earrings, Ocean Queen, $29

pink and red cotton scarf, Ocean Queen, $10

Banana Republic Factory Store petite jeans, $35

Gap Factory Store sweater, $25

Threads for Thought dress, $25, Off Fifth
I am always on the lookout for a cute, comfortable and work-appropriate cotton dress. 


Clarks Sonar Aster, $19.99, Clarks Outlet
I have old-lady feet, so I am always on the lookout for a shoe that provides the support and stability I need for my teaching job while not looking outright geriatric.  
    While I went over budget, items like the jeans and the new pair of work shoes will fill some gaps in my closet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

belted scarf

Alfani shirtdress, thrifted
Coldwater Creek silk scarf, gift 

       Some days call for sartorial armor. This is my version. I wore it last week for an observation of a math lesson. What made this observation a bit challenging was that it happened outside of my usual math block. If you know kids, you know bumping them out of their routine can lead to some interesting results. For instance, having a student (usually well-behaved) start making funny noises during the lesson (with the observer sitting there and taking notes) and having to say, "Is that really necessary?"

      Besides observations, last week included the usual mad dash to grade papers, record scores, crunch scores, write thoughtful, useful comments, and fill out report cards. I had the kids review and reflect on their report cards yesterday and got a couple of hugs from students who were happy with their comments. One of my professional perks, I suppose! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

bouncing back to brights

Threads 4 Thought dress, Off Fifth
cardigan, Gap Outlet 
 I've been wearing a lot of neutrals lately. January's purchases so far include a black-and-white print top and a gray-and-white striped tunic, which means the neutrals streak is not over yet. However, in the middle of a short but jam-packed week, it was nice to revert to my comfort colors of blue and green.

     On my annual December pilgrimage to the outlet mall, I found this new addition to my collection of cotton dresses. It was a steal at 40% off! The fabric is soft, the print reminds me of India, and the cut is work-appropriate. I know it's hard to see in the photos, but the back hem is slightly longer and curved, which adds interest.
*   *  *  *  *
     A few weeks ago, my local craft store sent me a 40% off coupon. I decided to get a book that would teach me something new. I considered getting a jewelry-making book, but I wanted to take up something that wouldn't require a lot of tools. So I ended up getting a book on Zentangles, since all it requires is a pen and paper. It's been a fun, simple way to fit more creativity into my life. My hectic work schedule inspired this piece:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

aaand we're back

Angie kimono top, Macys
same ol' jeans, Ross
Merona tee, Target

    The first day back after three weeks of break can be tough, so I went with something uncomplicated for yesterday's outfit - a tee and jeans dressed up with my new kimono top. I scored this top for $11.99 during the Cyber Monday specials, and got it for free, thanks to some gift cards I discovered in my wallet.

     I hesitated about buying yet another kimono top, but my rationalization was that it was a different color, print and cut than the other ones I own. What's nice about this top is that it's tan with black crochet trim and has navy and red in the print, which makes it easy to pair with other items. Another rationalization - this is shorter than my other kimonos,which might make it fun to style (belted?) with a dress. It also looks cute peeking out under certain jackets.
    What is a clothing item or accessory that you think you might own a few too many of? I'd love to hear that I'm not the only one who collects pretty things ... 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in review: favorite outfits

In 2014, I ...
 wore a crop top to work,

 thrifted an awesome black shirtdress in a lady-like length,

 wore all neutrals and liked it (!??!),

 experimented with a trilby, and

sewed with chiffon for the first time and made myself a kimono top.
       I wish that I had blogged a little more regularly in 2014, but I'm not going to let that bother me. After all, real life - like fulfilling all my family and  work obligations and getting to aikido practice two times a week - comes first.
      It's interesting to skim through the year's outfits and pick a few that stand out. Something I noticed was the predominance of black and gray. I still love my colors, but based on these photos they've become strategic accents instead of the main attraction.
     I'm still musing over what resolution(s), if any, I would like to set for 2015. But then again, I'm a procrastinator who figures I have the whole of January to figure out this year's goals. ;) 
    Are you more timely than I am and have your goals/resolutions made already? If so, leave 'em in the comments box for me to admire.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the problem with layers

Rebecca Taylor silk top, thrifted
Calvin Klein straight leg jeans, Ross
Coldwater Creek scarf, gift from Mom

     I wore the cardigan most of the day, but after reviewing the photos, I've decided that I prefer wearing this outfit without the cardigan. Two long and loose layers - albeit very lightweight - don't look as easy and effortless as I thought they'd look. I thought matching my cardigan to my jeans would do the trick, but it doesn't quite. The effect is not terrible, but I prefer the proportions of the first photo. Somehow, the rolled-up sleeves and bare forearms seem to balance out the scarf and loose top. Ah, to be just a few inches taller and better suited to carrying off those long, effortless flowy outfits that I gravitate towards ...

 Bobeau cardigan, Nordstrom Rack

   I haven't given up on these types of outfits, however ... this caught my eye lately. I'd like to recreate it, but maybe try it with my more fitted maxi skirt to preserve some shape.
   Are you like me, and sometimes drawn to looks that are problematic for your body type? Or is figure flattery your top priority?